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Super Bowl TV Season Sees Snow, Ad Falloff

2/02/2015 08:00:00 AM Eastern

NEW YORK — Super Bowl is traditionally a peak period for TV demand, but a severe winter storm barreling down on the home turf of the contending New England Patriots in the days before the game threatened to put a crimp in sales.

As this went to press, the down-graded blizzard, which hammered 60 million residents throughout much of the Northeast, was described by the National Weather service as potentially “historic” and “life-threatening.” But an eastward shift lessened the impact in the New York City area, leaving some parts of New England to suffer the storm’s brunt alone.

The snowfall came just days before the big Super Bowl XLIX contest in Glendale, Ariz., between the Patriots and the Seattle Seahawks.

The National Retail Federation (NRF), in its annual “Super Bowl Spending Survey,” had expected about 9.6 million TVs to be purchased in advance of the Big Game, based on a pre-storm poll.

More than three-quarters of the nation’s adults (18 years and older) were expected to watch the game, and 8.8 percent of viewers planned to buy a TV for the event, up from 7.2 percent last year, the survey showed.

Irrespective of the storm, a pre-Super Bowl study by market research firm Gap Intelligence found that retailers have been slowing down the rate of traditional pre-Super Bowl print advertising over the past several years, potentially impacting demand.

Deirdre Kennedy, Gap TV market analyst, noted that in 2013, 641 television print ads were placed in the month prior to Super Bowl Sunday, while the 573 ads placed in 2014 represented an 11 percent dip and the 435 ads placed in 2015 showed a 32 percent loss in total ads between two years ago and today.

Interestingly, the most-advertised screen size in recent years continues to be 55- inch TVs, with 60-inch screens tying for the top spot in 2014, Gap observed.

Retail chain hhgregg placed the most ads in 2013 and 2014, but dropped be- low Best Buy for the first time in 2015, with a 37 percent reduction in ad placements. Fry’s Electronics had the most dramatic drop in ads, with a fall of 81 percent from 2013 levels, in large part due to the company’s switch to online advertising methods, Kennedy said.

Among brands, Samsung remained the top advertiser, although its total number of ads decreased by 38 percent since 2013 and 50 percent from its high in 2014.

LG, in second place, increased its ad count slightly year over year, while Sharp and Sony in third and fourth places, respectively, were down slightly from 2014 levels.

Vizio increased its ad count by 100 percent between 2013 and 2014, and again by 38 percent between 2014 and 2015.

Fortunately, the drop-off in print ad promotions didn’t appear to impact intentions to buy. A separate study commissioned by FatWallet.com found consumers eager to go before the big game. According to its “TV Buyer Survey” of 1,000 adults conducted earlier this month, 26 percent said they planned to buy a new TV this year, and 20 percent of those said they would do so during Super Bowl promotions.

Among the intended TV buyers, the Super Bowl was second only to Black Friday as the preferred TV shopping period, down from first place last year. The poll also showed that TV purchasing decisions are influenced most by price (45 percent), and that one in four now stream the majority of their TV programming.

“If you missed the Black Friday TV deals, Super Bowl sales offer shoppers an opportunity to save money upgrading their streaming capabilities and the Big Game experience,” said FatWallet spokesman Brent Shelton.

That sentiment was echoed by retailers, who emphasized value and improved technologies like 4K resolution in their consumer marketing.

Best Buy, for one, noted that the last time the Patriots won the Super Bowl, in 2005, a 50-inch HDTV (an RCA DLP rear-projection set) sold for $2,799 in its stores, compared with a current-day 50- inch Insignia LCD that sells for $399.

Similarly, hhgregg CEO Dennis May noted, “Recent innovations around clarity and shape, including curved screens, are creating even better viewing experiences for families and sports fans.”

The company also commissioned yet another survey, of 3,500 U.S. consumers, which identified the latest HDTVs as “the item most likely to improve Big Game viewing experiences.”.

Super Bowl offers from hhgregg include a 47-inch LG HDTV for $399, a 46- inch Samsung smart TV for $500, and a 65-inch Toshiba smart TV for $999.

The company is also promoting what may be the third-best Super Bowl accoutrement after big-screen TVs and beer: “Relaxing recliners” starting at $299.

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